According to CNN, the families of eight young children have filed suit against a prominent Washington, D.C., synagogue and one of its leaders, alleging they ignored warnings that a teacher at the congregation’s preschool was sexually abusing the children for more than two years.
The families, who are filing the suit anonymously, to protect the children’s identities, say the alleged abuse occurred at Washington Hebrew Congregation’s Early Childhood Center, a Reform Jewish synagogue founded in the 1850s.
The lawsuit names Jordan Silverman, a teacher at Washington Hebrew Congregation’s preschool, as the abuser. Silverman, who was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, has not been charged with any crimes and denies the allegations in the lawsuit.
“Mr. Silverman categorically denies engaging in any inappropriate or illegal contact with children at Washington Hebrew Congregation,” said his attorney, Shawn Sukumar.
The lawsuit accuses the school’s head of early childhood education, Deborah Jensen, of failing to “protect children from a known and avoidable risk of sexual abuse,” according to a statement from the families’ lawyers.
According to a police report, on August 17, 2018, a hotline for the district’s Child and Family Services agencies received “an allegation of sexual abuse of a child.” The hotline reporter claimed the alleged abuse began in September of 2017 and continued until August 15, 2018, two days before the police investigation started.
The 74-count civil complaint was filed late Monday in Superior Court for the District of Columbia and alleges that “systemic, regular sexual abuse of such young children and in large numbers in an educational environment does not occur in the absence of neglect by the school administrators.”
The alleged victims were between the ages of 2 and 4 years old and included both girls and boys, according to the statement.
According to Jeff Herman, a nationally recognized attorney for victims of sexual abuse, “This is a terrible abuse of power and trust. These families are going through a roller coaster of emotions. Taking action and sharing their stories will go a long way toward helping them to begin healing.”